The 11 Most Important Guns in History
Hand Cannon, 13th century
China had developed a wide variety of gunpowder weapons known as “fire lances” and “fire dragons,” as well as flamethrowers and fireworks, as far back as the 10th century. The first true firearms that used gunpowder to launch a projectile can be dated to the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century. These included bronze hand cannons, which could be held by one man and touched off by another. The range was short and accuracy poor, but the smoke, fire, and roar must have intimidated opponents of the time.
Gatling Gun, 1862
Dr. Richard Gatling’s invention was one of the first real machine guns, with a practical rate of fire of more than 700 .50-caliber rounds per minute. The Gatling gun is a rotating six-barreled weapon driven by a hand crank. Each barrel was loaded and fired mechanically in turn as the barrel rotated, with ammunition fed from a clip by gravity. The gun made a brief appearance in the American Civil War but proved more effective in the Spanish-American War. The British used Gatling guns to deadly effect in colonial wars against massed Zulus in South Africa, Mahdists in the Sudan, and many other wars of this period.